There are numerous studies and research on the many physical benefits of exercise to include aerobic exercise, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and balance, however, there is increasing evidence to list the psychological and cognitive benefits and its relation to physical exercise, some of these include; heightened mood state, less anxiety, stress and depression, improved self esteem and body image. Studies conducted in Finland on participants between the ages of 24-64 explored the association between physical exercise and psychological traits and demonstrated that participants who exercise at least 2-3 times a week experienced less anger, distrust, depression and report a stronger sense of social integration compared to those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
I am preparing for a summer Camino, Portugual to Santiago. This Camino is recommended as the next Pilgrim route to take for those who have some experience of the Camino Frances and it is growing every year in popularity. Apparently the route was popular in the middle ages resulting in many walkers from across Europe undertaking the challenge. This South to north Camino will involve some coastal walking, making it ideal for walking enthusiasts looking for a sense of adventure, whilst visiting interesting towns and villages, trying local cuisine and wine. Some Portuguese words would be useful I am told to integrate with the community.
The route continued to Palas De Rei. After leaving Portomarin, crossing the River Mino we continued uphill steadily through woodland, the rain continued and got heavier and heavier. Continuing through small hamlets, passing the Hospital de la Cruz. Arriving at Vendas de Naron to get a ‘pilgrim stamp’ the old Romanesque Chapel, then continuing along the paved path, arriving at Sierra de Ligonde which offered fantastic views over the valleys. Particular parts of the route were isolated and quiet, apart from a rather large dog. The fog was dense and we were soaked through.
Approaching A Calzada the weather was so bad, we took shelter under a tree. There were other walkers, one an Australian man, we had met further back in other towns. After discussing the weather, our blisters, stories of one walker getting frostbite back in the Pyrenees, our conversation compared the weather to life and the Camino, there are good and bad times, but we must press forwards.
The Camino de Santiago builds resilience, both emotionally and physically, it enables us to develop a positive mind and can-do-attitude. We can integrate resilience into our lives on a daily basis, by being more active, getting more sleep and eating well, forgiving ourselves and resolving conflict. These small steps can help us improve our mental health and to face everyday challenges.